Thomas Sherwood (martyr)

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Blessed Thomas Sherwood
Died7 February, 1578[1]
Tyburn, London
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Beatified29 December 1886, Rome by Pope Leo XIII

Blessed Thomas Sherwood (c. 1551–1578) was a Catholic layman and martyr.


Sherwood was born in London of Henry and Elizabeth Sherwood, Catholics who both enduring imprisonment for their religion. His father, Henry Sherwood, was a woolen draper. At the age of fifteen Thomas left school to assist his father in the woolen business for the next ten years. In 1576 he decided to travel to the new English College at Douai and study for the priesthood. He subsequently returned home to adjust his accounts, and obtain funds to support his studies.[2]

In the city he was a visitor to the house of Lady Tregonwell of Dorsetshire, where it seems that Mass was secretly offered. The woman's son, by her first marriage, Protestant George Marten, resented this. Happening to see Sherwood in the street in Chancery Lane, he began to cry "Stop the traitor" aloud. In this way he managed to have Thomas brought before a judge.[1]

Although there was no proof of any kind against him, he implicated himself by answering openly on the issue of the Queen's supremacy. Being examined before the Recorder as to his opinion of the bull of Pius V and as to whether an excommunicated queen held lawful sovereignty, he denied all knowledge of both Bull and excommunication, but expressed his opinion that if the queen were indeed excommunicated her rule could not be lawful.[1] Once he had been imprisoned in the Tower of London, and at the orders of the Privy Council, his lodgings were searched and a large sum of money, approximately 20-30 pounds, which Thomas had borrowed to help his sick father, was removed. The funds were confiscated.


Twice racked with a view to extracting details of houses where Mass was celebrated, Thomas kept silent. As a result, he was then thrown into a dungeon to rot, where he endured hunger and cold for three winter months.[3] As the cell was below the water line, as the Thames rose with the tide, rats would be driven into the dark chamber. The only concession that William Roper, Thomas More's son-in-law, could obtain was permission to supply him with straw to lie upon.[1] Roper sent money to Sherwood's jailer in order to purchase food, but the funds were returned as the Lieutenant would not allow Sherwood benefit of any alms.[4]

His story then finished with a hasty trial, and the inevitable sentence of hanging, drawing and quartering, carried out at Tyburn, where he was cut down while still alive. Sherwood was 27 years of age.[5]

Sherwood's mother, being repeatedly discovered at Mass, was intermittently imprisoned for a total of fourteen years. In the end, she died in prison, having exhausted whatever funds she had to provide for her maintenance. His brother, John, left for the continent, where he joined the Society of Jesus.[4]


He is said to have been a small man, witty, cheerful and loved by many.[4] He was beatified "equipollently" by Pope Leo XIII, by means of a decree of 29 December 1886.



  • Anstruther, Godfrey, Seminary Priests, St Edmund's College, Ware, vol. 1, 1968, pp. 313–314.
  • Wainewright, John B., "Sir John Tregonwell's Second Wife", in Notes and Queries 11 S. VI (149), Nov. 2, 1912, pp. 347–348

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Bl. Thomas Sherwood" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.